JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville hosted the 2011 NAS Jacksonville Centennial of Naval Aviation Air Show Nov. 5-6.
"From what I saw, this was a truly memorable event for military and civilian aviation enthusiasts in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia," said NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey Maclay. "Our station air show team has worked for almost a year on this event - and the results were outstanding. The NAS Jax MWR and air operations departments, along with fire and security personnel, did a superb job."
Guests of honor were Alfred Taddeo and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Franklin Hicks Jr., a wounded warrior and Purple Heart recipient. Taddeo is the last living member of the original Blue Angels team that was established at NAS Jacksonville in 1946. For the third consecutive year, Taddeo and his wife, Joan, visited as guests of NAS Jacksonville and the Blue Angels.
Hicks, who was escorted by his mother, Vivian Arnold, was wounded Aug. 18 in Afghanistan and is undergoing physical rehabilitation for his injuries.
"I'm so grateful to NAS Jax for honoring my son here today," said Arnold. "James, along with other wounded warriors, needs to participate in ceremonies like this more often because it helps them in their recovery."
"It's my extreme honor and privilege to escort this true American hero," said NAS Jax Executive Officer Capt. Bob Sanders. "James reminds me of the sacrifices that our young men and women make for our freedom."
In addition to being part of the Distinguished Flying Cross reception, Taddeo was front and center for each Blue Angels flight demonstration. "They perform their close diamond formations just the same as our 1946 Blue Angels team. But when you add the two solo pilots to the mix, today's team is really spectacular," said Taddeo.
"The people here are always fantastic - especially Capt. Maclay, Capt. Sanders and our good friend (NAS Jax safety officer) Ron Williamson. Joan and I sincerely thank everyone in Jacksonville for their warm hospitality," said Taddeo.
Maclay gave special appreciation to the leadership and professionalism of air show coordinator Cmdr. Jim Debold, base air operations officer.
"This was our third successful air show in a row. Our entire team pitched in to make this and all-hands effort," said Debold. "Celebrating the sights and sounds of freedom is our way of giving back to the city of Jacksonville and surrounding communities that are so supportive of our military men and women.
"Above all, I want to thank the thousands of spectators who braved the inclement weather -as well as the performers who were so flexible in scheduling their performances each day," added Debold.
Maclay concluded, "I'm delighted to have with us the Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy for Business Operations and Transformation Eric Fanning, Vice Adm. Mark Skinner, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy Research, Development and Acquisition, Rear Adm. Brian Prindle, commander, Naval Safety Center, and many other distinguished state and local officials. I salute everyone for their outstanding execution of an event that has thousands of intertwined parts. It's a great opportunity for the visiting public to understand why America's Navy is a global force for good."
Air show spectator 13-year-old Kelsey Hellum has attended every air show since she was born. "I really love coming to the air shows and really love seeing Fat Albert because it's so big. I just love all the airplanes flying and doing their stunts," she said. "I even got to watch my uncle parachute in during the 2003 airs how."
"I really love the air show, especially the fighting scenarios between the old planes," said 15-year-old Allen Turpish, a student at Fleming Island High School. "I'm also looking forward to seeing the Blue Angels fly. One of the pilots came to our school the other day and talked about his career and how he became a Blue Angel pilot. I plan to join the Navy and would like to work in the aviation field, too," he said.
For more news from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasjax/.